A doctoral candidate in the UVA English Department interested in comparative Renaissance literature, the philosophy of science, and the history of Renaissance cosmography.

  • Space before Cyberspace: Confronting the Revolutionary Legacy of Geospatial Representation


    In the enhanced age of the digital world in which we live, it can be all too easy to congratulate ourselves as scholars for revolutionizing this or that method of mapping, organizing, surveying, or seeing writ-large. With all such bold claims, however, this often involves shutting off a large segment of the historical discourse at the foundations of our understanding of what the geospatial is, how we see it, and what it tells us about our socio-political and cultural realities. With this in mind, I’d be interested in a session in which we seek continuities between the original revolutions in the geo-spatial (the early-modern revolution of the atlas, the world map, and perspectival representation) and more recent renovations (the post-modern digitized, satellite enhanced, fragmented sense of the world as picture). I think this would allow traditional scholars and digital humanists alike to question their sense of the historical development of the geospatial as well as to seek out continuity rather than claim innovation.

    Some great new readings are available on this topics from theorists working with a large historical palette right up to the present day. These could include:

    –Bruno Latour’s writing on Scientific Representation: “Drawing Things Together” from Representation in Scientific Practice.

    –A reconsideration of Heidegger’s “The Age of the World Picture”

    –Readings from Alpers’s “The Art of Describing”

    –Reading from Christian Jacob’s “The Sovereign Map”

    –Readings on current practices in urban planning and cultural imagination as enhanced by Geospatial techniques.

    Rather than be guided by readings, however, the session would be most ideally suited to a consideration of images of the geospatial as they become theorized and created over time, from T-O projections all the way to Google Maps, I think a tour of the cartographic and cosmographic heritage of Western thought would be a productive start to a fascinating conversation. Some questions to tackle might be:

    –“Are we truly in a post-cartographic age? What kind of room for culture is there in the satellite image?”

    –“What kind of evolutionary patterns can be discovered in the shifting image of the world as picture?”

    –“What are the socio-political consequences as access to geospatial picture making becomes increasingly democratized? Used as the basis for both revolutions in information technology and as a major tool in the blueprinting of conventional military maneuvers and terrorist attacks alike, geospatial representation is revolutionizing the military and civilian world.”

    –“What kind of continuous aesthetic concerns can be found in the geospatial?”

    — And any other thoughts that might arise in confronting the vast history of geospatial representation.

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